The ABC in the Pacific: trusted but underfunded

The ABC in the Pacific: trusted but underfunded

The ABC remains the largest and most trusted public media broadcaster in the Pacific - with a strong capacity to support democracy in the region - but funding cuts have taken a toll, a Parliamentary Committee has been told.

Clare Gorman and Palau

Appearing before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Claire Gorman, Head of ABC International Services, told MPs that research in 2021 showed that 75% of Pacific consumers of ABC radio, TV, digital and social media valued the ABC as a trusted source of news and information. 

This research was conducted across the ABC’s six key Pacific markets—Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa.

Ms Gorman welcomed the Albanese Government's increased investment in the October 2022 budget of $32 million over four years for the ABC’s international services, and the additional $8.5 million for four years, starting in financial year 2023-24, for regional distribution announced earlier this year. 

She said that, prior to the new funding commitments, the ABC’s funding for international activities was $11 million a year. This compares to the BBC World Service’s $700 million annual funding, the US Agency for Global Media’s $1 billion a year and China’s estimated investment of more than $3 billion a year in international media activities.

"We do an enormous amount on that skeleton budget and the trust figures, which I mentioned, that we have in the Pacific are really a testament to the quality of the content that we produce and our ongoing and sustained investment in that area, but we could do a lot more with a much higher level of funding," she told the Committee.

Ms Gorman said that digital fragmentation across the media will have a big impact on the ABC as a large broadcaster if it is not able to participate in such an environment. 

“Digital fragmentation and transformation are at a slightly different rate across the Pacific. So, we're still very much able to capitalise on the use of our traditional broadcast platforms. But in Indonesia and across South-East Asia in particular and in the subcontinent, we need to be doing more across the range of social channels and so on, and we need to be much more muscular and be creating a lot more content for, with and about those regions.”

Read the full transcript here

ABC Radio Australia returns to Palau

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Sophie Arnold
E-news Editor
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